School of Fontainebleau

The School of Fontainebleau (Ecole de Fontainebleau 1530–1610) refers to two periods of artistic production in France during the late Renaissance centered on the royal Château de Fontainebleau, that were crucial in forming the French version of Northern Mannerism.

Term that encompasses work in a wide variety of media, including painting, sculpture, stuccowork and printmaking, produced from the 1530s to the first decade of the 17th century in France (eg The Nymph of Fontainebleau) It evokes an unreal and poetic world of elegant, elongated figures, often in mythological settings, as well as incorporating rich, intricate ornamentation with a characteristic type of strapwork The phrase was first used by Adam von Bartsch in Le Peintre-graveur (21 vols, Vienna, 1803–21), referring to a group of etchings and engravings, some of which were undoubtedly made at Fontainebleau in France More generally, it designates the art made to decorate the château of Fontainebleau, built from 1528 by Francis I and his successors, and by extension it covers all works that reflect the art of Fontainebleau With the re-evaluation of mannerism in the 20th century, the popularity of the Fontainebleau school has increased hugely

Centered around painters working mainly on the decoration of the Château de Fontainebleau, this school is characterized by a measured French interpretation of Mannerism.

The name given to this artistic movement, however, dates from the nineteenth century, first used in 1818 by the historian Adam Bartsch (1757-1821), in his work on engraving (1803-1821), to designate the prints made by a group of artists in the 1540s , under the influence of two Italian masters working at the castle of Fontainebleau : the Rosso and Primatice.

By extension, this term has been applied to all forms of art that flourished in Fontainebleau , and a little later, in the same spirit, in Paris.

The First School of Fontainebleau (about 1526-1570)
In 1526, when he was barely back from captivity, Francis I brought a large group of Italian artists from Italy to beautify his Palace of Fontainebleau 3 . He thus creates his wish, a kind of ” new Rome “, which will be called the School of Fontainebleau , with an influential intellectual and artistic circle.

From 1530 , under the influence of the Italians Rosso and Primatice , are launched the great formulas of a decorative style that will prevail throughout Europe . Their great innovation in interior decoration is the alliance, for the first time in France , of ornaments or stucco figures with frescoes and wood paneling .

Among the favorite subjects are the mythological or allegorical paintings, inspired by Antiquity , where the nudes are treated with elegance 4 . Thanks to Rosso , the First School of Fontainebleau develops the decorative capabilities of the cartridge by associating it with the windings and the soft cut-outs of the leather . This formula will never be known to be a universal success.

In Galerie François I , this new introduction to stucco enriches frescoes or medallions , with high relief borders. This frame system, created at the instigation of the Rosso , animates here figures, putti , garlands of fruit, bucranes , satyrs or masks , in the middle of the undulation of leather and holes of niches . These stuccoes sometimes white, sometimes painted and gilded, frame allegorical figures, while creating games of shadows and light.

Work of an Italian, but unthinkable outside the French context, the Galerie François Ier is revealed as a vast ensemble for the glorification of the French monarchy . Immediately admired by foreigners, and first and foremost by the Italians , it suddenly made Fontainebleau a major artistic center, like a ” new Rome “, thereby realizing the great ambition of the king who is represented as ” winner of the Ignorance “.

This new type of gallery imposes in France an imaginary world unpublished: the court, accustomed until now to the decorations of tapestries with religious or heroic subjects, discovers the universe of the Fable and its provocative nudities . Such a work must have caused a sensation and precipitated the evolution of minds.

While the death occurred, the Rosso in 1540 , Primatice , took the direction of the works of Fontainebleau , assisted in this by Nicolò dell’Abbate .

The completion of the decoration of the chamber of the Duchess d’Etampes , gives him the opportunity to realize a vast decorative ensemble, whose allegorical cycles put the human figure in the foreground. However, it is treated as a decorative element among many others, before, as well as garlands or cartridges, to bend to the overall formulation and the requirements of the composition. His scale and his canon thus follow the imperatives of the overall effect. In a general way, it is the Italian Mannerism , introduced and renewed by the Rosso and Primatice which controls the fluid and elongated aspect of the figures, in particular when it is about the feminine nude which is then animated by the ” serpentine line “.

Above the paneling of this room, erotic scenes inspired by the life of Alexander the Great develop. This series of frescoes, made between 1541 and 1544 , draws as well its inspiration from Raphael’s achievements as from the lust of François I er : libertine king to the many mistresses (he would have had 27 at a time), he would have said in Brantôme : “A court without ladies, is like a garden without flowers” 6 . Unfinished for a time, these decorations were completed from 1570 by Niccolo dell’Abate , to parch the work of the wing of the Belle – Cheminée . Among these works, we have come from the Primatice : ” Alexander taming Bucéphale” , ” The Marriage of Alexander” and “Roxane and Alexander sparing Timoclée “, supplemented by those of Niccolo dell’Abate including: ” Alexander has a set in a box set works of Homer ” and” Thalestris climbs into Alexander’s bed “.

A little later, the Ballroom , took a different party, Primatice being supplanted by Philibert Delorme . Windows here glazed allow the development of frescoes above a high paneling carpentry . A coffered ceiling developed by Scibec de Carpi completes the ensemble. At the bottom stands a gigantic fireplace framed by two bronze satyrs, whose eclectic playing with forms, light and materials, denotes an Italian mannerist style . In the embrasures of the windows, appear painted sets of mythological scenes inspired by the History of the Trojan War and realized by Niccolò dell’Abbate , who works in parallel for Anne de Montmorency (Enlightenment of Proserpine, or History of Euridyce).

These Bellifontain achievements greatly influenced French artists such as Jean Goujon , Antoine Caron and Noël Jallier . Sometimes, other artists invited by François I , such as Benvenuto Cellini or Girolamo della Robbia , are associated with the School of Fontainebleau. A number of these personalities, influenced by Italian art, began to participate in the interior decoration of the castle Ecouen being built. In general, if the spirit of the decorative elements remains faithful to the achievements of Fontainebleau , the compositions of this new site see an evolution in the treatment of stucco, gradually replaced by trompe l’oeil.

Taking the parts taken from the Ballroom of Fontainebleau , the rooms of the Castle of Ancy-le-Franc are adorned with high paneling topped with frescoes attributed largely to Primatice or other painters of Fontainebleau. Their particular style here again testifies to the influence exerted by the royal residences on all the artistic productions of the moment.

Towards the middle of the sixteenth century , when the print market is in full explosion, the paintings made by this school are copied in etchings , apparently on the occasion of a brief program organized including the painters themselves. same 8 . The art of stained glass is affected, the piece of furniture copies the most famous motifs. The sculptors, even the greatest ones, are not insensitive to it. Thus the patrons executed by the artists of Fontainebleau for upholsterers, goldsmiths and enamellers naturally contributed to the close interdependence of the arts at that time.

Far from disappearing at the death of its two last creators, the School of Fontainebleau, survives, sometimes in a very archaic way until the end of the century. His influence on French art is astonishing: It is noted as far as Province in the frescoes of the castle of Oiron then Tanlay . Thus, mixing the bellifontain and roman influences, the gallery of the Château d’Oiron (1547-1549) realized by Noël Jallier on the theme of the Aeneid and the Iliad , makes the synthesis between France and Italy . We also find the Italian riders and a great passion in the action of the characters, inspired by the Rosso , while a poetic sfumato invades the Roman landscapes.

Finally, in the castle of Tanlay , the frescoes of the dome vault of the upper floor of the Tower of the League , represent with the same serpentine line, characters of the court of France , disguised as the gods of the Olympus.

Despite the diversity of the decorative parties, the large number of techniques used and the cosmopolitan character of an environment that brings together Italian, French and Flemish artists, the productions of the School of Fontainebleau present a great unity of style, marked by a common conception of figure and ornament . The world born of this agreement having no equivalent in Italy , it must be admitted that a climate peculiar to the court of France , sumptuous, sensual, elegant, has directed in a new direction the genius of Rosso and Primatice .

The works of this “first school of Fontainebleau” are characterized by the extensive use of stucco (moldings and picture frames) and frescos, and an elaborate (and often mysterious) system of allegories and mythological iconography. Renaissance decorative motifs such as grotesques, strapwork and putti are common, as well as a certain degree of eroticism. The figures are elegant and show the influence of the techniques of the Italian Mannerism of Michelangelo, Raphael and especially Parmigianino. Primaticcio was also directed to make copies of antique Roman statues for the king, thus spreading the influence of classical statuary.

Many of the works of Rosso, Primaticcio and dell’Abate have not survived; parts of the Chateau were remodelled at various dates. The paintings of the group were reproduced in prints, mostly etchings, which were apparently produced initially at Fontainebleau itself, and later in Paris. These disseminated the style through France and beyond, and also record several paintings that have not survived.

The mannerist style of the Fontainebleau school influenced French artists (with whom the Italians worked) such as the painter Jean Cousin the Elder, the sculptors Jean Goujon and Germain Pilon, and, to a lesser degree, the painter and portraitist François Clouet the son of Jean Clouet.

Printmaking workshop
Although there is no certain proof, most scholars have agreed that there was a printmaking workshop at the Palace of Fontainebleau itself, reproducing the designs of the artists for their works in the palace, as well as other compositions they produced. The most productive printmakers were Léon Davent, Antonio Fantuzzi, and Jean Mignon, followed by the “mysterious” artist known from his monogram as “Master I♀V” (♀ being the alchemical symbol for copper, from which the printing plates were made), and the workshop seems to have been active between about 1542 and 1548 at the latest; François I of France died in March 1547, after which funding for the palace ended, and the school dispersed. These were the first etchings made in France, and not far behind the first Italian uses of the technique, which originated in Germany. The earliest impressions of all the Fontainebleau prints are in brown ink, and their intention seems to have been essentially reproductive.

The intention of the workshop was to disseminate the new style developing at the palace more widely, both to France and to the Italians’ peers back in Italy. Whether the initiative to do this came from the king or another patron, or from the artists alone, is unclear. David Landau believes that Primaticcio was the driving force; he had stepped up to become the director of the work at Fontainebleau after the suicide of Rosso Fiorentino in 1540.

The enterprise seems to have been “just slightly premature” in terms of catching a market. The etched prints were often marked by signs of the workshop’s inexperience and sometimes incompetence with the technique of etching, and according to Sue Welsh Reed: “Few impressions survive from these plates, and it is questionable whether many were pulled. The plates were often poorly executed and not well printed; they were often scratched or not well polished and did not wipe clean. Some may have been made of metals soft as copper, such as pewter.” A broadening market for prints preferred the “highly finished textures” of Nicolas Beatrizet, and later “proficient but ultimately uninspired” engravers such as René Boyvin and Pierre Milan.

Notable artists of the first school
Niccolò dell’Abbate (c.1509-1571) (Italian)
Damiano del Barbiere, Italian stuccoist and sculptor
Francesco Scibec da Carpi (died c. 1557) Italian furniture maker, who worked on the boiseries.
Léon Davent, French etcher
Antonio Fantuzzi, Italian painter and etcher
Rosso Fiorentino (Giovanni Battista di Jacopo de’ Rossi) (1494–1540) (Italian)
Juste de Juste (c.1505-1559) Franco-Italian sculptor and etcher
Luca Penni (c. 1500/1504-1556) (Italian)
Francesco Primaticcio (c.1505-1570) (Italian)
Léonard Thiry, Flemish, painter and etcher

The Second School of Fontainebleau (1594-1617)
From the reign of Henry IV develops a late Mannerist style sometimes called ” Second School of Fontainebleau “. Echoing the first, it mainly refers to the painters who were active on the royal shipyards. during the reign of Henry IV ( 1594 – 1610 ) and the regency of Marie de Medici ( 1610 – 1617 ). The field of activity of this second school, too, largely exceeded the framework of the only castle of Fontainebleau ; his share was large in the decoration of the Louvre and Saint-Germain-en-Laye , not to mention the work done for the royal manufactory of tapestries 8 . This new team, however, differs from the previous one by its large number of artists of Flemish origin and, more generally, by a more pronounced Nordic influence, which can be explained by the political circumstances of the time. .

Following a long period of unrest linked to the wars of religion , the renewal of the arts is particularly striking in the reign of Henry IV , touching all areas: painting, sculpture, architecture, art book but also art gardens and court arts, including ballets and triumphal entrances.

Renewing with the time of Francis I , the king is working to revive the French arts by an important patronage . In order to attract artists who fled Paris again , he began working in the 1590s to contribute to the renown of the kingdom by involving them in ambitious programs (Galerie de Diane, Galerie des Cerfs, Pavillon des Poëles, New Castle of Saint-Germain-en-Laye …). Henry IV , the first king of the Bourbon dynasty but also heir to the Valois throne, never ceases to recall the legitimacy of this hard-won power. Fontainebleau is thus part of these unfinished works under the Valois that the king wants to complete while at the same time helping the capital to regain its primacy in the artistic field.

It is in this context of renewed prosperity, that develops the second School of Fontainebleau. The continuity with the first team is all the more sensitive that the second is also part of the international trend of Mannerism , hence the common name. But with the Parmesan inspiration that dominated with the Primatice are more mixed influences. The Italians no longer play the first role because are well the French who now occupy the management positions. If we still look forward to the Primatice , the Rosso or Nicolò Dell’Abate , whose color and ” modern ” trends of their landscapes and their genre scenes are appreciated, the general inspiration has changed: Flemish contribution, which has become essential, leads to a more personal interpretation of painting, which associates with the Mannerist formulas elements of a realism often close to caricature: Toussaint Dubreuil , Ambroise Dubois and Martin Fréminet are today considered as the main masters of this movement.

Throughout the reign of Henry IV , these artists are constantly trying to renew the French decorative style, taking advantage of the opportunities offered by the resumption of royal yards. To carry out their research, the new team does not hesitate to draw not only from the sources of the art of Fontainebleau , than from the contemporary Italianizing Flemish , thus bringing several distortions in their loans. Thus the Flemish ‘ Ambroise Dubois and the French Toussaint Dubreuil (prematurely disappeared in 1602) synthesize their contributions by compositions with whimsical distortions and erotic nudes, by a brilliant and eclectic style. However, the flame seems quite extinct and the confusion of space and scale in most compositions mask the poverty of imagination and style.

Unlike the First School of Fontainebleau, no French artist of the second generation attains the value and charisma of Rosso or Primatice . Despite its desire for independence and renewal, this school is too often attracted by the sighted and fantastic elements of Italian models, characterized by extreme perspectives and an exaggerated and tart palette; too many works then sink into a confused formula and an obvious eroticism, signs of a superficial understanding of late Renaissance art.

If the Second School of Fontainebleau brings together French artists such as Jacob Bunel , Guillaume Dumée , Gabriel Honnet or the already baroque Martin Freminet , to create the decorations of the royal residences, only Antoine Caron impresses with his art of extremely sophisticated court. His paintings are strangely similar to gigantic ballets, probably inspired by the favorite entertainment of the court of Catherine de ‘Medici , his main patron.

Now less focused on mythological or allegorical themes, inspired by Antiquity , the Second School of Fontainebleau is more willing to turn to the romantic and literary themes from the songs of Tasso and Ariosto : The subjects from Jerusalem delivered or of the Franciade then know a resounding success. However, the religious themes are still very popular because often related to prestigious orders, perfectly illustrated in the already baroque decor of the chapel of the Trinity by Fréminet , as a new ” French Sistine ” of the seventeenth century.

By the sumptuousness of its decorations, the castle of Fontainebleau , becomes for a time a major artistic center adding to the radiation of the new dynasty; The exchanges between Parisian art and Bellifontain art seemed to intensify.

However, the links that unite the France of Henri IV and Marie de Médicis to the major European artistic centers, allows this new team from Bellifontaine to be placed in a wider setting, in connection with Florence , Antwerp or Nancy , whose the brilliant artistic center is dominated by Jacques Bellange (died in 1616) but whose style is inexorably increased under the influence of Jean de Hoey and Jerome Franck.

While many works by artists of the Second School of Fontainebleau have unfortunately disappeared, the conservation at Ancy-le-Franc castle , a vast set of scenery, related to both the first and second school of Fontainebleau, in fact today one of the major witnesses of the French pictorial production of the Renaissance.

In conclusion, the famous painting representing Gabrielle d’Estrées and one of her sisters, perfectly summarizes the characteristics of the French painting of the royal court of the time, mixing sensuality, freshness of colors and influence of Italian painting of the Renaissance. By distinguishing themselves from the masters of the first school, by a warmer and more contrasting color, the art of these painters still kneaded models of the first Italian Mannerism , played an undeniable role of transition with the Parisian art of the beginning of the xvii century, expressing as much the new tendencies of Classicism as those of the Baroque .

Nevertheless, the brilliance of the works of the First School is such that masters like Primatice and Nicolò dell’Abbate , continue to exert a decisive influence throughout the period: they will remain a major reference to the XVth century for classics like Laurent de La Hyre , Jacques Blanchard , Lubin Baugin , and even the Brothers Le Nain.

Their style would continue to have an influence on artists through the first decades of the 17th century, but other artistic currents (Peter Paul Rubens, Caravaggio, the Dutch and Flemish naturalist schools) would soon eclipse them.

Notable artists of the second school
Ambroise Dubois (c.1542-1614) (Flemish born)
Toussaint Dubreuil (c.1561-1602)
Martin Fréminet (1567–1619)

Source From Wikipedia